In politics and national cultures, there are a number of perspectives and truths that, for some reason or another, become tabboo to express (or discuss). This can have interesting consequences when two national cultures come to different unquestionable positions (and for people who follow international politics and are freethinkers, guarantees that they'll pick up some perspectives/ideas that are tabboo and possibly reprehensible by their culture - there are two levels of this, the "can't say it and still be elected" and "can't say it as a private citizen without turning heads and being disliked by non-freethinkers"). Today's news provided an example of this in the form of statements by Kyuma Fumio, defense minister of Japan. He generated anger in Japanese society by expressing the opinion over the American dropping of atomic bombs in Japan by saying that it "couldn't be helped" (paraphrase of a phrase in Japanese, I'm sure) and that it was necessary to end the war. It's an accepted matter in Japan that atomic weapons are unjustifiable under any circumstances, although in the United States, at least based on many conversations I've had with people, it's close to (but not unquestionable) a universal opinion that use of such weapons was necessary - Fumio's statements would be considered mainstream in the United States. The notion of such taboos has interested me ever since I started picking up ideas from chatting with Germans and Japanese on Free-nets when I was 9 or 10 and toying with ideas that brought me trouble when discussing them with people here.. the very idea that patriotism is mostly negative and dangerous (and all the lines of reasoning that make it look silly and show how it's used to manipulate people/obscure thinking) is one that has, no matter how carefully phrased, often caused people to walk away angry without a word in the United States, although among most Germans I've met it's a common (and in this case carefully thought-out) position. Many sufficiently long-lasting world conflicts give their own societies unquestionable interpretations of history (often with false facts mixed in) or values that people dare not question, guaranteeing continuation. Turkey's handling of the Armenians during the late Ottoman times would be another good example of at least a one-sided blindness, although such things are pretty common, seeming to be part of human social nature. It sometimes happens in families too...
Egypt's health minister banned female "circumcision" after an unfortunate died during the procedure. I was surprised to read that 97% of females in Egypt, according to a poll, have undergone the procedure. I imagine this won't be a popular move given the struggle between traditionalists and the current government in Egypt - in theory, if American-style politicians (and procedural liberals - those who care more about liberal governmental form (e.g. democracy) than liberal/enlightenment values (e.g. secularism, science)) were over there, they'd complain that this change didn't happen through democratic means. Personally, I'm happy to see anything that resembles progress (yes, a loaded term - references my values, I know), whether it comes through judicial activism, polls, or fiat - democracy, to me, is a means to an end, and if Egypt has to stifle/surpress/eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas's parent organisation) to remain nominally secular, I hope they keep doing so.
Qadaffi, in an AU summit, proposed transforming the African Union into something between the EU and the US. It's an interesting idea, although if it were to happen, I would hope that Qadaffi has nothing more to do with it - his intent to spread Islam over the entire world bothers me.
Again courtesy jwzjwz, some progress has been made on AIDS - an enzyme has been made that recognises start sequences for one variant of AIDS has been crafted, and in tests has shown the ability to slice it back out cleanly. A few years down the road, this may lead to a full treatment for AIDS, presumably.